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Protesting Prayer? A Lesson on Religious Freedom

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By Kelly Shackelford, Christian Post Guest Contributor
August 5, 2011|12:02 pm

Prayer is one of the greatest of American traditions. It dates back to the founding of this country. In addition to an American spirit of freedom, boldness, and independence, prayer reflects an important counterbalancing American spirit – humility.

A country that is prideful is a country on its way out as a leading power. Remembering that our country and our freedoms are a gift from God is a welcome attitude for a healthy America. Even our Declaration of Independence begins with this acknowledgement.

So why are some people attacking a prayer event in Houston and some even planning to protest? Critics argue that it violates the Establishment Clause: Texas Governor Rick Perry should not have called for a prayer event, and the event should not be Christian, even though everyone is welcome to attend. These critics are misguided and wrong on both complaints.

The very Founders of our country who wrote the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, on the same day as the First Amendment was adopted, passed a resolution calling for Americans to pray and give thanks to God. Sound familiar? It is, in fact, the same call as Gov. Perry gave. The Founders had no problem encouraging Americans to pray and thank God. They believed in religious freedom and that calling for prayer allowed every American to exercise, or not, religious freedom as they wished.

Some today say they are for “religious freedom” also. By that, they mean “you should have your religious freedom; you should just keep it in your churches and synagogues.” That was never our Constitution’s or our Founders’ view. They believed in a religious freedom that was vibrant and often public. They had no problem with public invocations or with public officials encouraging prayer.

In our nation’s history, Congress has passed literally hundreds of resolutions for prayer, humility, and thanksgiving. Those attempting to stifle Gov. Perry’s religious freedom either don’t know U.S. History and the Constitution or they are seeking to change them.

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Those attacking the prayer event because it is Christian also show a severe misunderstanding of religious freedom. Public prayers and religious events are not Constitutional because they are “inclusive.” They are Constitutional because they are free.

People may pray and organize the religious events that they wish. Religious freedom thrives in this country because different groups form around different beliefs and ideas. Forcing them all together in the name of “inclusiveness” is a horrible idea It robs believers of each faith of their unique values and takes away choice and freedom for the American people.

The American constitutional system has it exactly right. A political leader can call for prayer. For Heaven’s sake, he can even say he likes his church.

Those of different faiths or no faith at all are free to express their beliefs and gather as well. It’s the same freedom for every American, including governors and other elected officials.

It’s actually refreshing to see a politician bowing before the Creator rather than thinking he or she is the creator. That humility before God is an enduring American spirit, it’s Constitutional, and many of us believe it’s necessary for America to succeed.

Kelly Shackelford, Esq., is President/CEO of Liberty Institute, an organization committed to standing for Constitutional and First Amendment freedoms. More information at www.LibertyInstitute.org.
 

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